Every little girl has once wished (upon a star) to one day be a princess in a fairy tale. However, do they truly understand what the definition of a fairy tale princess is? Fairy tales have created a definition and a set of requirements of a true princess, a definition and a set of requirements that could easily be applied to a pretty teacup or any other inanimate object. These fairy tales have defined a princess as someone who is unrealistically beautiful, passive, with no voice, and helpless and dependent. Beauty is one of the key requirements to be a princess.
Every woman in a fairy tale is either a beautiful princess or an ugly witch or stepmother. There are no average looking women to be found in these tales. Since physical qualities are often an allegory to the goodness or evil of a character, beauty has been a requirement for a princess. In the picture books and movies of these fairy tales, audiences will see tall skinny girls whose waists are almost the size of their necks with eyes that are abnormally large. Though unrealistic, this appearance has been made necessary in these tales. Would Cinderella be let in to the ball or ever have a dance with a prince if she were ugly?
Would Prince Charming even consider kissing “Sleeping Beauty” if she were “Sleeping Ugly”? Beauty is such an important part of a princess but how does it affect those young girls who wish to be like them? These fairy tales give the message that the only way to find love or Mr. Perfect is to be beautiful. Young girls watch and read storybooks and movies that have princesses with body types that are considered anorexic. This image will sink in to their minds subconsciously and affect them for the rest of their lives, since most children will never be able to reach the standard of beauty required to be a princess.
Along with beauty, a princess has been defined to have no voice or say. In almost every fairy tale a princess never gets to express her opinion or personality. The ultimate example of this is in the Little Mermaid (Disney Version) when Ariel trades her voice so she can alter her appearance. She is told that she won’t need a voice to get the prince and all she needs to do is look pretty. This leads young girls to think their voice and opinion don’t matter and to have their “happily ever after,” all they have to do is stay quiet passive and be visually attractive. Lastly a princess is defined as someone who is helpless and dependent.
Almost every single fairy tale has a damsel in distress waiting for the prince to save them. Sleeping Beauty has to wait for Prince Charming, Rapunzel has to wait in her tower, and Prince Eric saves Ariel. In all fairy tales this is a common factor; the princess is always helpless and needs saving. Never in a traditional fairy tale does a princess save the prince. In addition to the sexism in these tales, they present and promote a negative message for girls. It communicates to girls that if something bad is happening or if there is a problem, wait for a male to come and solve the situation.
Putting these ideas in little girls’ heads at such an early age will discourage them from to ever becoming strong and confident women. Understanding the true definition of a fairy tale princess is, princesses should not be role models for so many girls. However so many little girls still want to be princesses, even if they are defined to be unrealistically beautiful, passive, voiceless, and helplessly dependent on others. This needs to change in order to have more confident and smart women. Society should think about these fairy tales and really consider if the princess in the tale is someone young girls should have as their role models.
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